Tony is still on top

SPEEDWAY: Reigning World Champion Tony Rickardsson again looks to be the man to beat in this season's speedway Grand Prix series, after victory in the first round in Hamar, Norway on Saturday evening.


REIGNING World Champion Tony Rickardsson again looks to be the man to beat in this season's speedway Grand Prix series, after victory in the first round in Hamar, Norway on Saturday evening.

The Ipswich asset who is on loan to Poole Pirates made light work of the difficult conditions and cruised to victory in the re-started final, after his main challenger, Jason Crump, had been excluded.

The four-time champion, who is looking to emulate legendary Swede Ove Fundin in winning the crown five times, admitted that it was one of his toughest victories.

Rickardsson is aiming to become the second Swedish rider, after Ove Fundin, to collect five crowns admitted that it was one of his toughest victories.

"I don't always start my campaign very well, so this is great for me," he said after racing to a victory that was enthusiastically acclaimed by a large contingent of Swedish fans among the mulit-national crowd.

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Rickardsson even had to endure a rerun of the Final after Australian Jason Crump, runner-up in the 2001 series, fell while chasing his great rival and was excluded.

Rickardsson made no mistake second time out, with Australia's Ryan Sullivan second and fellow Swede Mikael Karlsson third. Both Karlsson and Sulllivan finished strongly in 2001 and their performances at the wonderful Viking Ship will put them in great heart for the second round in Poland in two weeks time.

But it was a disappointing end to a brave performance from Crump, who had only just returned to action following a serious crash in Poland.

He is still far from fit and racing was tough and furious on the 275-metres circuit, which must have tested his endurance to pain to the limit.

England's Carl Stonehewer also had one of his best Grand Prix meetings, taking joint fifth with another Aussie, Leigh Adams. Billy Hamill and Todd Wiltshire were joint seventh.

It was the first Grand Prix to be staged in Norway and proved eventful especially with deep ruts appearing on the bends causing riders to fall.

The track was laid on a skating rink and was the same size as the Millennium Stadium.

"The track wasn't good," said Ipswich Witches star Scott Nicholls, who was making his full GPdebut.

"It was bumpy and cut up badly. You either had to make the gate by a mile or be a mile behind going into the first turn to make a move. In between and you were sandwiched and out of it."

The meeting at the magnificent Viking Stadium, built for the Winter Olympics, was memorable for a number of spectacular crashes, seemingly caused by the track rutting up.

Nicholls was a victim in heat seven when he reared up and fell off the back of his machine, coming out of the second turn whilst chasing a qualification spot.

It was a disappointing night for the Ipswich rider who was them eliminated when his enthusiasm got the better of him and he touched the tapes in heat 12.

Fellow Brit, Andy Smith, twitched on the inside of Nicholls and it was just enough of a distraction for the rider, in his first full year of GP action, to roll forward.

"Andy Smith next to me was twitching and I shouldn't have fallen for it," added Nicholls.

"It's an old trick and I should have known better. But the pressure was on. I moved and was out.

"I could have kicked myself and it is a pretty disastrous start for me, although thank goodness there are nine more to go. I put pressure on myself but tried so hard on Saturday to relax.

"But I can't dwell on it, I've got a meeting in Sweden tomorrow night and three for Ipswich this week, so fortunately I haven't got much time to think about it."

The evening had started better with Nicholls showing his class and battling through from the back to follow home Andreas Jonsson in a thrilling heat four.

That was as good as it got though, and just three points was not the reward he was looking for from his efforts and he will be looking to raise his game when the series reaches Poland in two weeks time.

The saying goes, "no pain, no gain" and this looked to be the case for Crump as he battled through the meeting with arm and rib injuries sustained in Poland three weeks ago.

He aggravated his injuries further when he shed a chain in his first race and again when he fell whilst challenging for the lead in heat 20, but still progressed to the semi-finals with a second spot in heat 21.

In the final he was second to Rickardsson and looked to have the necessary speed to overhaul his rival.

His efforts to go for Gold were dashed when he overslid on the second lap after passing the Swede on the inside.

A disappointing Crump said afterwards: "I just had to go for it didn't I?"

Australian Ryan Sullivan finished runner-up to Rickardsson in the restarted final, with Mikael Karlsson finishing third.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches will be using Belle Vue rider Jason Lyons as a guest for injured skipper Chris Louis in both their Sky Sports Elite League meetings against Poole this week.

They ride at Wimborne Road on Wednesday with the return at Foxhall Stadium the following night.

Ipswich end the week with a visit to league championship favourites Eastbourne on Saturday.

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